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Snow Leopard in Parallels Desktop

This is a technical post on how to get the Snow Leopard OS running on a Mac in Parallels Desktop, so that older Apple software can be run on a newer Mac. It has been verified on Parallels 16.1.0.

If you want our office to set this up for you (which we can do remotely), please email help@ivanexpert.com to schedule an appointment.

 

Background:

Snow Leopard, aka Mac OS X 10.6, was released in June 2009, and it represented the last version of macOS to run older PowerPC based software. Its successor, Lion, was released two years later, so back then I wrote a post about how to run Snow Leopard in a virtual machine so you could, at the time, keep on trucking with AppleWorks, QuarkXPress, Quicken, and other apps that did not have Intel versions available.

Apparently, the method I used stopped working as of Parallels 7, but someone else wrote up how to do it — though judging from the comments, that method stopped working well around Parallels 10 or 11, and I myself could not get it to work.

There may be less reason to run Snow Leopard today than there was nine years ago, but I was overcome with nostalgia and managed to get it going. Thanks to the many others on the internet who have written things who helped me figure it out, especially that above writeup.

One goal of this method was to prevent the need for typing any commands in Terminal or engage in similar deep technical arcana. It probably is a few more steps as a result, but it’s also hopefully easier for more Snow Leopard users to complete.

 

What you’ll need:

Parallels Desktop. These steps have been verified to work on version 15.

A retail (not included with a Mac) Snow Leopard DVD and a drive that can read it, or disk image of same. The physical disk used to be available from Apple’s online store as recently as last year, but no more. Maybe you can still get it if you call them. Or you can find them on eBay and Amazon. You just might be able to find it if you Google “snow leopard 10.6.3 download”, but I didn’t tell you that. (Hey, it’s not like they’re making it easily available to buy any more.) If you go that route, be careful that you download from somewhere that looks reputable.

(Alternative: a Snow Leopard Server DVD, or disk image thereof. If you can locate one, this is about a million times faster and easier, since Parallels supports it.)

 

Part 1: Set up a macOS VM

  1. Create a Parallels virtual machine running any version of macOS from Lion onward. The easiest way to do this is to choose File > New in Parallels, and then, at the rightmost edge of “Free Systems”, click on “Install macOS 10.x.x from the Recovery Partition”, and follow the prompts. Once made, the VM’s name will appear as “macOS 10.x.x”.
  2. Alternative to the above step: You can use a macOS installer app for Lion or later. To do this, choose File > New in Parallels, and double-click “Install Windows or another OS from a DVD or image file”. Drag the Install macOS app into the area that says “Drag the image file here”. Parallels will recognize it as OS X. Click Continue, then Continue again to create a bootable disk image file. It’s fine to leave the default name (“macOS image file”) and location (the Parallels folder of your Documents folder). Wait until that’s complete, and on the next screen, leave the default VM name of “macOS”, and the default location (the Parallels foder of your Documents folder). Cilck Create.
  3. The VM will initially start into Recovery/Utillities mode. Choose your language, click on (Re)Install macOS, Continue, Continue, Agree, Agree. Then click on “Macintosh HD”, click Install, and wait until the installation completes.
  4. The VM should restart automatically (if not, start it manually). During the initial setup screens, choose Set Up Later (or, on earlier macOS versions, “Don’t Sign In”) for iCloud/Apple ID login, and otherwise defer as much as you can, until you get to the Desktop.
  5. Shut down the VM from the Apple menu.

 

Part 2: Set up the Snow Leopard installer disc

  1. Control-click on the macOS VM in the Parallels Control Center and choose Configure.
  2. Click the General tab. Change the name of the VM to “Snow Leopard”.
  3. Click the Hardware tab. If “Hard Disk 2” is listed in the left column, click it, and then click the – button beneath the column to remove it. Click “Move to Trash” when prompted.
  4. Click the + button in the lower left, and choose Hard Disk from the drop down menu. Leave the Type as “New Image File” and the Location as “Snow Leopard-0.hdd”. Set the size to what you like (at least 20 GB), and leave the checkboxes in their default state (“Split the image into 2 GB files” unchecked, and “Expanding disk” checked). Click OK. The virtual disk will appear in the left column as Hard Disk 2.
  5. Click the + button in the lower left again, and choose Hard Disk again. Leave the Type as “New Image File” and the default name of “Snow Leopard-1.hdd”. This time, set the disk size to 8 GB, and remove the checkmark next to “Expanding disk”. Click OK. The virtual disk will appear in the left column as Hard Disk 3.
  6. Close the Configuration window.
  7. Start the VM (now appearing as “Snow Leopard” in the Parallels Control Center). When you get to the desktop, in the Finder, choose Computer from the Go menu. Choose “as List” from the View menu. You will see three volumes named “Macintosh HD”. Look in the Size column, and rename the smallest (around 30 MB) to “SL installer HD”. Rename the next largest (around 157 GB) one to to “Snow Leopard HD”. Leave the largest one (several GB) named “Macintosh HD”.
  8. The following steps vary depending upon which version of macOS you initially installed in your VM — if you’re not sure, go to About This Mac from the Apple menu inside the VM. If a step does not specify that it’s for a specific macOS version, then follow it no matter what version you’re running.
  9. If your VM is running macOS 10.14.6 or earlier: within the VM, in the Finder, choose Utilities from the Go menu, and double-click Disk Utility.
  10. If the VM guest OS is 10.15 or later: Shut down the VM from the Apple menu. Right-click on the VM in the Parallels Control Center and select Configure. Click the Hardware tab. Click Boot Order in the left column. On the right, check the box for “Select boot device on startup”. Close the configuration window. Start the VM and immediately press a key when prompted to enter the boot device menu. (If you miss the window, restart when boot completes.) Using the arrow keys, highlight Mac OS X Recovery. Press return. You will start up into the macOS Recovery. At the Recovery menu, open Disk Utility. (More detail here: https://kb.parallels.com/cn/116526)
  11. Any VM guest OS version: Go to the Devices menu of your VM (in your host OS, not the VM guest OS), and select CD/DVD > Connect Image. Navigate to the Snow Leopard install disk image file, and click Choose. (If you are instead using a physical Snow Leopard DVD, insert it, and choose your optical drive from the same menu.)
  12. If the VM guest OS is 10.11 or later (including 10.15 or later): In Disk Utility, on the left, select “SL installer HD”. Click the Restore button. For “Restore From:”, select “Mac OS X Install DVD”. Click Restore, and wait until it completes. Click Done. Now, on the left side of Disk Utility, there will now be two volumes named “Mac OS X Install DVD”. One of them will have an eject icon to the right of it; click it to unmount the volume. You’ll see the name turn grey; click the eject icon again to fully eject the image and make it disappear. Quit Disk Utility.
  13. If the VM guest OS is 10.15 or later: Shut down the VM from the Apple menu. Control-click on the VM in Parallels Control Center and select Configure. Click the Hardware tab. Click Boot Order in the left column. On the right, uncheck the box for “Select boot device on startup”. Close the Configuration window. Start the VM.
  14. If the VM guest OS is 10.10.5 or earlier: in Disk Utility, on the left, select “Mac OS X Install DVD”. On the top bar, click the Restore tab. For “Destination:”, drag “SL installer HD” from the left into the empty field. Click Restore, and wait until it completes. Once it does, on the left side of Disk Utility, there will now be two volumes named “Mac OS X Install DVD”. One of them will look like a CD/DVD, rather than a hard drive. Click on that one, and then choose ‘Eject “Mac OS X Install DVD”‘ from the File menu. Quit Disk Utility.
  15. Open Safari, go to https://pastebin.com/7AbpskAd and click Download. Click Allow if prompted. The script will open in TextEdit automatically; quit TextEdit. Quit Safari.
  16. In the VM, click on Finder, and select Downloads from the Go menu. Control-click on “sl_disk_setup.applescript.txt” and select Open With > Script Editor. Click OK to ignore the warning about the dictionary. You should see the script open in a Script Editor window.
  17. In Script Editor, select “Run” from the Script menu. Enter your administrator password for the VM guest OS when prompted. “done” will appear in the result section in the lower half of the window. Quit Script Editor.
  18. Shut down the guest VM from the Apple menu.

If for some reason the link in step 15 no longer works, here’s the code which you could copy and paste into an empty Script Editor window, and then skip to step 17:

 

Part 3: Install Snow Leopard

  1. Control-click on the VM in the Parallels Control Center, and select Configure. Click the Hardware tab. On the left, select Boot Order. On the right, select Hard Disk 3. Click the up arrow until it is at the top. Close the Configuration window.
  2. Start the VM. After a little bit, you should be taken to the Snow Leopard installation screen.
  3. Advance to the Install Mac OS X screen, and click Continue, and Agree. Click on “Snow Leopard HD”. Click Customize, and enable Rosetta (which you need to run PowerPC applications — presumably the reason you’re installing Snow Leopard). Optionally enable QuickTime 7, and optionally disable Printer Support, Additional Fonts, Language Translations, and X11. Click OK. Click Install. Wait until the virtual machine restarts.
  4. When the VM restarts, you will be taken back to the Snow Leopard installer. At the “Install Mac OS X” screen, choose Startup Disk from the Utilities menu. Then select Shut Down from the Startup Disk menu. Ignore the warning, and click the Shutdown button. (Alternatively, it’s possible that when the VM restarts, it will instead say that you have an invalid OS. If that’s the case, just click OK. The VM will shut down.)

 

Part 4: Set up the installed Snow Leopard drive

  1. Control-click on the VM in the Parallels Control Center, and select Configure. Click the Hardware tab. In the left column, select Hard Disk 3, and click the – button beneath the left column to remove it. Click Move to Trash when prompted. Close the Configuration window.
  2. Optional: If you want to keep the Snow Leopard installer disk, go into your Trash now, and take out “Snow Leopard-1.hdd”. Put it where you like (probably in the Parallels folder of your Documents folder), and rename it to “SL installer HD.hdd” or whatever else you like.
  3. Start the VM. You’ll reboot into the original VM guest OS that you installed earlier. (The following steps are the same as at the end of part 1.)
  4. In the VM, click on Finder, and select Downloads from the Go menu. Control-click on “sl_disk_setup.applescript.txt” and select Open With > Script Editor. Click OK to ignore the warning about the dictionary. You should see the script in a Script Editor window.
  5. In Script Editor, select “Run” from the Script menu. Enter your administrator password for the VM guest OS when prompted. “done” will appear in the result section in the lower half of the window. Quit Script Editor.
  6. Shut down the guest VM from the Apple menu.
  7. Control-click on the VM in the Parallels Control Center, and select Configure. Click on the Hardware tab. In the left column, click on Hard Disk 1, and then the – button at the bottom of the column to remove it. Click “Move to Trash” when prompted. Close the Configuration window.
  8. Optional: I recommend keeping the original OS drive for your VM, so you can fix the Snow Leopard disk if Parallels refuses to boot from it. If you want to do this, open your Trash, and look for your virtual hard disk file; it will either be called “harddisk.hdd” or “macOS-0.hdd”. Put it in the Parallels folder of your Documents folder, or wherever else you like, and name it “macOS.hdd” or whatever makes the most sense to you.
  9. Optional: At this point, you may want to use the Parallels snapshot feature to preserve Snow Leopard in its freshly installed state. If you do, right-click on the VM in the Parallels Control Center, choose “Manage Snapshots”, and click New. Name the snapshot “10.6.3 fresh install” or whatever you like, and click OK. Close the Snapshots window.

 

Part 5: Finish setting up Snow Leopard

  1. Start the VM, and go through Snow Leopard’s setup screens. When you get to the screen requesting your Apple ID, click Continue without entering anything. On the subsequent screen for Registration, also click Continue without entering anything, and then click Continue to confirm. Finish the rest of the setup screens.
  2. In the VM, select Software Update from the Apple menu. After it scans, click Show Details. Uncheck all updates except “Mac OS X Update Combined”. Click Install 1 item. After restart, repeat with “Security Update 2013-004”. After that, install what you like from what remains.
  3. (Alternative in case the above step doesn’t work: in your host OS, download the Mac OS X 10.6.8 Update Combo v1.1 from https://support.apple.com/kb/dl1399 , and Security Update 2013-004 from https://support.apple.com/kb/dl1678 . Select “CD/DVD > Choose Image” from the Devices menu of the VM, and select “MacOSXUpdCombo10.6.8.dmg” from your Downloads folder. Install the package that appears in your VM. After restart, repeat with “SecUpd2013-004.dmg”. Hopefully Software Update will work after that, but if not, you can try to get any other updates from Apple’s support pages the same way.)
  4. Optional: Install Parallels Tools, by choosing “Install Parallels Tools” from the Actions menu of the VM. Click Continue. Wait for the “Parallels Tools” volume to appear on your Snow Leopard desktop. Open the volume and run the installer. Restart when prompted. Eject the Parallels Tools volume after restart.
  5. Optional: If you want a Snow Leopard compatible browser that is mostly adequate for use on the modern web (which Safari 5.1 is not), Arctic Fox is a Firefox derivative that is current as of March 2020. If you have installed Parallels Tools, you can download it on your host OS from https://github.com/wicknix/Arctic-Fox/wiki/Downloads and then drag its .zip file from your host OS Downloads folder onto the Finder desktop in your VM window. Alternative method: within the VM, use Safari to get Firefox 48, at http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/firefox/releases/48.0.2/mac/en-US/ — then, use Firefox (which is out of date and has trouble with some sites) to get Arctic Fox.
  6. You may want to shut down the VM and create a(nother) Parallels snapshot at this point, or make a copy of the Snow Leopard HD virtual machine as a backup.

 

Epilogue: What to do if Parallels refuses to start Snow Leopard

If, sometime after you’ve gotten your VM up and running, Parallels gives you a message about an invalid OS during startup, it’s because a file you need is missing on your Snow Leopard drive. This can happen if the virtual machine is stopped without going through the normal macOS Shut Down process. If this happens:

  1. First off, if you made a virtual machine snapshot, and you don’t mind losing anything that’s happened in your VM since you made it, then just restore the snapshot. If that’s not going to work for you, then:
  2. Control-click on the Snow Leopard VM in the Parallels Control Center and choose Configure. Click the Hardware tab.
  3. Click the + in the lower left, and choose Hard Disk. Choose Type: Existing Image File, then click on “Choose a File Path”. Select the virtual hard disk file for the original OS you installed that you rescued from the trash in the steps above (if you didn’t rename it, it will be called “harddisk.hdd” or “macOS.hdd”). The new drive will appear as Hard Disk 2.
  4. Click Boot Order in the left column, then click the up arrow to move Hard Disk 2 to the top. Close the Configuration window.
  5. Start up the VM. Choose Computer from the Go menu to verify that the Snow Leopard drive is visible in the VM.
  6. In the VM, in Finder, choose Downloads from the Go menu. If the file “sl_disk_setup.applescript.txt” isn’t in the Downloads folder, then: Open Safari, go to https://pastebin.com/7AbpskAd and click Download. Click Allow if prompted. The script will open in TextEdit automatically; quit TextEdit. Quit Safari.
  7. In the VM, in the Downloads folder, control-click on “sl_disk_setup.applescript.txt” and select Open With > Script Editor. Click OK to ignore the warning about the dictionary. You should see the script open in a Script Editor window.
  8. In Script Editor, select “Run” from the Script menu. Enter your administrator password for the VM guest OS when prompted. “done” will appear in the result section in the lower half of the window. Quit Script Editor.
  9. Shut down the guest VM from the Apple menu.
  10. Control-click on the VM in the Parallels Control Center, and select Configure. Click on the Hardware tab. In the left column, click on Hard Disk 2, and then the – button at the bottom of the column to remove it. Click “Keep Files” when prompted. Close the Configuration window.
  11. Restart the VM.

iPhone apps for birdwatching

Now that summer is here, I’ve been seeing more birds outside the window, and hearing them singing too — so I decided to download a few iPhone apps to help me figure out what they are.

Here are the apps I’m trying out. All of them are free!

Audubon Bird Guide
Yes this is probably the best known bird app for iOS. There are 800 birds from North America in the app. Each one has a picture and sound. Plus you can use the app to see what birds people near you have seen recently.

Merlin Bird ID
This one is from Cornell Lab. Here’s all you need to know (from their overview of their app): “What’s that bird? Merlin Bird ID helps you solve the mystery in 5 questions, or with a photo of a bird.”

Song Sleuth: Auto Bird Song ID
This app can record the bird you are hearing and compare it to its database of birdsongs, and suggest which birds it might be.

I’m excited to start using these!

 

An Ode to the AirPods Pro

Now that we are in Corona lockdown, my #1 required accessory for getting work done is my AirPods Pro. If you, like me, are stuck working in a small home with no escape from the noise – whether that be sirens outside the window, neighbors’ kids running around, or your partner on a Zoom call in the next room – AirPods Pro can be your salvation too.

Yes they are expensive, $249, and yes they are easy to lose, and yes in two years you will have to buy another pair once the rechargeable batteries start dying. But what is the price of sanity, of your relationship with your significant other or your kids?

I have found the AirPods work exceptionally well at blocking out the surrounding sound, whether I’m on a call or listening to music. I pair them with my iPhone for making phone calls, and with my Mac for Zoom and other video calls, and they work perfectly with both. The 3 different sizes of rubber tips help to get just the right seal inside your ears.

I’d also recommend a subscription to Spotify ($10/month, or $15/month for family plan) so you can have your pick of calming music that helps to distract from whatever is going on around you.

Making sense of Microsoft Office 2016, 2019, 365

Microsoft is notorious for their product segmenting and confusing naming.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, they have multiple subscription services under the banner of “Office 365” — which they are renaming to “Microsoft 365”. These services can include Office software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook), email hosting (Exchange), or both.

Most Office 365 plans available include Exchange email hosting, with or without Office software included, depending on the plan. But the following three plans are just for the software, without hosting. All of them also include Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for mobile devices.

  • Office 365 Personal: the software, for one computer, for $70/year.
  • Office 365 Home: the software, for six computers ostensibly in the same household, for $100/year.
  • Office 365 Business: the software, for one computer, for $100/year.

For those who want to buy the Office software, rather than subscribe to it:

  • Office Home & Student 2019: the software, for one computer, for $149. Outlook and mobile devices are not included.
  • Office Home & Business 2019: the software, for one computer, for $249. Mobile devices are not included.

What’s the relationship of 2019 to 365? Well, 365 is the subscription. 2019 is general name for the software version, though you probably won’t see it labeled that way if you subscribe. That’s because the software is updated every month (e.g. version 16.33, 16.34, and so on), so that’s the version you see. That means there’s really no one big new version every few years any more, it’s more like one small new version every month.

But they still brand the one-time purchase options like it’s a big new version — 2016, 2019, etc. If you buy these, what really happens is that you still get the monthly updates, until Microsoft cuts you off from new ones (except for security updates, which are still delivered monthly, though those will eventually get cut off too). So, the correspondence is:

  • Office 2008: version 12.x, and 13.x for Entourage Web Services Edition (no longer updated)
  • Office 2011: version 14.x (no longer updated)
  • Office 2016: version 15.0 through 16.16.x (security updates continue to increment monthly, for now)
  • Office 2019: version 16.17 onward (currently 16.35, increments monthly)

Office 2011 was really a big new version compared with 2008, and Office 2016 really was a big new version compared to Office 2011. But Office 2019 isn’t really a big new version compared to 2016 — it’s just a continuation of the monthly updates that 365 subscribers also get, but which 2016 purchasers have now been cut off from. They’re frozen at version 16.16.

Remove Google Contacts and Holidays from Calendar on your Mac, iPhone or iPad

calendar months

When you add a Google calendar to Apple’s Calendar app for Mac, iPhone, or iPad, you get two “calendars” you may or may not want, one for Holidays, which is redundant with Apple’s own Holidays calendar, and another, confusingly, for Contacts.

It’s possible to hide these from being displayed by unchecking them in the left sidebar of Mac Calendar, or from the “Calendars” button on iPhone or iPad, but they’re still there, as a confusing distraction, especially on the Mac Calendar app where their names are always displayed.

But there’s a way to hide them entirely so that they don’t display on your devices at all. On each device or computer where you want the calendars hidden, go to this URL in Safari:

Google Cal Sync Select

Sign in with your Google/Gmail account, if needed. You’ll then be given the opportunity to uncheck the Holiday and Contacts calendars which appear on that device. Click Save when done.

The same link can be also be used for enabling the display of calendars that have been shared with you that don’t otherwise appear in the Calendar app.

Image by Bill Ward, from Flickr Creative Commons.

Google GSSMO vs GSMMO

Google makes incredibly powerful and useful tools, but they also have their own bizarro world logic and inconsistent UI that can be hard to follow. Gmail’s probably the best example of this–it’s entirely different from other email systems, so it can be a love or hate affair, especially if you prefer the concept of traditional mail folders.

Sometimes Google does something that’s just so Google that I have to laugh, and I found one of them. If you want to use G Suite with Outlook, they offer integration tools. Unfortunately, they’re only for Windows (though current versions of Outlook Mac do offer some janky Gmail/Calendar/Contacts integration–I’d still stick with the Apple apps).

So, there’s a tool for maintaining ongoing sync between G Suite and Outlook, and it’s called G Suite Sync for Microsoft Outlook–or, as Google calls it. GSSMO. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but ok.

Then there’s another tool for one-time migration from Outlook to G Suite, and that’s called– wait for it–G Suite Migration for Microsoft Outlook. Which is…GSMMO.

Two different tools that do related but critically different things. And they’re called GSSMO and GSMMO. It took me 15 minutes on their support pages going back and forth thinking they were the same thing before I finally figured it out.

That’s so Google.

Related Posts

What to do if you can’t change your Google Chrome search engine on a Mac

Good Googling

Phishing Attacks Targeting Apple Users

9 to 5 Mac has an article about how phishing attacks targeting users of Apple products have increased by 30-40% per year.

The article states,

In the first half of this year, around 1.6 million phishing attacks attempting to fool people into using their Apple ID credentials to log in to a fake Apple website were detected by a security company…Kaspersky says that its figures reflect only attacks on Macs running its own security software — many of which are in corporate environments — suggesting that the true total number of phishing attempts is very much higher.

You might get an email that looks like it’s from Apple, claiming that your Apple account is locked, or saying it’s found a problem with your Mac. These are most likely not from Apple so don’t click on the link! Instead go to Apple.com or call 800-MY-APPLE for support.

The article says banks are the most common phishing emails; also common are “Flash player is out of date” messages. If you’re not sure, don’t click on a link in an email or on a website pop-up.

Related Posts

What to do after running MalwareBytes on your Mac

What to do if you can’t change your Google Chrome search engine on a Mac

Mesh WiFi, and using Eero as a wireless to wired bridge

Mesh WiFi has been a tremendous development for easily spreading WiFi around a larger home or office. It’s self-configuring repeating–you just drop your additional units in and the system figures out what to do.

We’ve tried a few, and they mostly do what they’re supposed to, including Linksys Velop, Netgear Orbi, Google WiFi, and Plume.

But the one we like best is Eero (which recently was acquired by Amazon, for better or worse). It’s elegant, it’s simple, it’s flexible, and it works. One of the things I like most about it is that it can support any combination of wireless and wired units, and is just as happy to operate in either router or bridge mode in all configurations.

Various products each have their strengths and weaknesses. Google WiFi doesn’t let you use bridge mode with a multi-unit mesh setup; Netgear Orbi prefers a “star” configuration with it at the center; Linksys Velop seems solid but its app lacks easy configuration (and you can never change the email address you use to manage the account); Plume has an ongoing subscription requirement, and its smaller units (Pods, rather than SuperPods) don’t have that much range–you’re supposed to put one in each room.

But Eero pretty much just gets it done. It doesn’t have the robust monitoring that Google WiFi does, and it doesn’t have the “adaptive” smarts that Plume has, but it’s a snap to set up using a mobile app, and it solidly provides wireless throughout your home, especially if you opt for the full size Eero units, rather than the smaller Eero Beacon units.

One thing that’s nice about Eero (and perhaps others) is that you can easily use it as a no-configuration wireless-to-wired bridge. I recently set up a client’s home office, and the room he was in did not have wired Ethernet. He needed it, though, for a VPN hardware product and VoIP phone. All of the Eeros in his house were connected by wire, so I just took an unused one, added it to the network as a wireless unit, and his VPN and phone instantly got use of its Ethernet ports, no muss, no fuss.

Mesh WiFi can do a lot for you.

Related Posts

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Rant: Why is Apple still selling snail-snow iMacs with hard drives in them?

Apple’s a premium brand, and they make almost uniformly excellent products. If you buy something Apple, even if you a minimum configuration, you have the confidence that you’re not getting crap.

Unless you buy an iMac that has a hard drive or Fusion drive–which is the standard option for most of them. To avoid getting one, you usually need to customize the order during check out to instead get a solid state drive. Every other model of Mac has a solid state drive included as the only option. But not the iMac.

Hard drives are about four times cheaper and many times slower than solid state drives for the capacity you get, and I have nothing inherently against them. The problem is that recent Apple operating systems, and especially Mojave (with its requirement for the new APFS file system), are made to work well on SSD’s, without regard for whether they perform well on HD’s.

And they don’t perform well. They perform terribly. Pinwheel city. Even on a brand new Mac. (Apple’s bizarre insistence on using even slower 5400 RPM drives in their 21.5″ models, rather than 7200 RPM model, only compounds the problem.)

Fusion drives are supposed to be a compromise, in which the operating system, applications, and frequent files are stored on a small SSD, while everything else is stored on a much larger HD. Unfortunately, in 2015 Apple, with almost no disclosure anywhere, reduced the SSD size of the SSD model to the point that not even Applications will fit entirely on it, if you have a few large ones. It’s hardly better than a regular hard drive. The 2 TB and 3 TB models have a larger SSD, but if you’ve got the budget for an all SSD model, that’s what I’d overwhelmingly recommend at this point.

So, what is Apple doing? I get that they want to be able to sell a computer with 1-3 TB of storage for a reasonable price. But they’re damaging the brand. I don’t know if the people who make these decisions realize what a dog that machine is, but it’s dreadful. They need to stop selling it in that configuration. I suspect they finally will within a year, when the iMac gets a major refresh, but that would be about four years too late.

You can check what you’ve got in Apple Menu, About This Mac, Storage, and if it says you have a SATA or Fusion drive rather than an SSD, then you’ve got a hard drive. And if you have a 1 TB Fusion drive, that’s hardly better than a hard drive alone.

If you do have a 2012 or later iMac with a hard drive, your options are to buy a new Mac with all SSD storage, or invest in a Samsung T5 external SSD, and use Carbon Copy Cloner or Time Machine Restore to copy everything to it.

I hope Apple stops selling this inferior configuration of machine–it’s like a Ferrari with no tires.

Related Posts

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How long do hard drives last? And what does that mean for the life of your Mac?

 

Why You Need a Password Manager

NY Times password manager article

The New York Times has an article this week entitled Why You Need a Password Manager. Yes, You.

Andrew Cunningham, the author of the article and a lead editor at Wirecutter, only recently started using a password manager and he makes a strong case for why it’s imperative that you do the same. He walks you through what it’s good at, how it works, and how to create and store a master password.

He writes,

But even though I should know better, up until a few months ago I was still reusing the same dozen or so passwords across all of my everything (though at least I had turned on two-factor authentication where I could). It’s just too difficult to come up with (and remember) unique, strong passwords for dozens of sites. That’s why, after much cajoling from co-workers, I started using a password manager — and it’s why you should be using one, too. Aside from using two-factor authentication and keeping your operating system and Web browser up-to-date, it’s the most important thing you can do to protect yourself online.

His preferred password manager is 1Password (which we recommend as well).

If you haven’t switched to a password manager yet, we hope he can help convince you why it’s necessary!

Related Posts:

1Password is a good password manager if you’re anxious about hacking

1Password: The Solution to Having Five Thousand Different Website Passwords

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